Grilled sweetcorn with chilli oil-infused butter

The best barbecue side dishes

by Great British Chefs 27 May 2022

The best barbecue side dishes are crowd-pleasing recipes with a fun, inspiring twist. Give your potato salad a makeover, refresh your coleslaw or find something completely new to surprise and impress your guests. From showstopper salads to stalwart American classics, you'll find your new favourite barbecue side dish in our collection. 

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

The best barbecue side dishes

Great side dishes can make or break a barbecue. Why put lots of effort into marinating the main course if the sides are merely an afterthought? Choose your accompaniments carefully, and they will bring out the best in your grilled fish, vegetable and meat dishes. Here are some of our favourite ideas from top chefs, from refreshing salads to irresistible dips. 

Coleslaw

Coleslaw is an all time classic barbecue side dish, adding essential crunch and freshness to the plate. While a classic, creamy cabbage 'slaw is always welcome, there's so much scope to play around with different vegetables, herbs and dressings.

Crisp, raw vegetables tend to work best in a coleslaw, like the kohlrabi and apple in this refreshing variation from Ollie Moore. Try this with grilled fish like these grilled sardines with paprika mayonnaise from Nathan Outlaw, shellfish dishes, grilled chicken or pork. 

This soy coleslaw from Shaun Hill puts a spin on the familiar carrot, cabbage and onion combination, with a dressing made from umami-rich soy sauce, fragrant lime and earthy coriander. 

We love this coleslaw with spiced pork, whole grilled fish or crisp-skinned chicken, such as this spatchcock BBQ chicken from Josh Eggleton

This soy and sesame coleslaw from Martin Wishart transforms the everyday white cabbage into something special thanks to a mixture of rice wine vinegar, sugar and soy. 

This coleslaw works particularly well with a perfectly barbecued steak - try it with this lime marinated flank steak.

Anna Hansen's 'winter coleslaw' is actually perfect at any time of year, with plenty of aniseed from the fennel and some sweetness from Granny Smith apple. She also suggests trying it with daikon, cucumber, green papaya or Nashi pear.

Serve this with sticky barbecue ribs or try these Filipino pork belly skewers from Martin Wishart. 

Potato Salad

What is a barbecue without a potato salad? This stalwart side dish is endlessly popular and so easily variable it's been reinvented time and time again. A classic, creamy version will always go down well, but it never hurts to have a few unexpected recipes up your sleeve.

This cloud-like yet creamy Japanese style potato salad from Tim Anderson is so light you'll be coming back for spoonful after spoonful. Studded with crisp vegetables and smoked ham and topped with squidgy ramen eggs, this potato salad is as impressive to look at as it is easy to eat. 

Those looking for traditional British flavours from their potato salad should try this yoghurt-dressed potato salad with peas, apples and mint from Rosana McPhee. 

This salad is the perfect partner for a plate of grilled lamb chops, such as these cumin and mint marinated chops from Ben Tish, or try it with some grilled squid with chilli and rocket

This Provençal potato salad with truffle oil and edible flowers is a real showstopper and makes a lovely centrepiece for a summer garden table. 

Try mixing up the edible flowers to change the appearance of the dish (purple chive flowers would work particularly well), or adapt this for fresh truffle season with some grated white or black truffle. 

Marcello Tully combines new potatoes with salmon, asparagus and a horseradish dressing for a spring-time take on a classic. This potato salad makes a beautiful side dish to grilled vegetables or seafood, and is a little more substantial than other takes - great if you're looking to keep the number of barbecue side dishes to a minimum. 

Dips

Dips are a great way to keep your guests happy while you cook the main event, and they also make a great addition to a barbecue plate where they function as a 'sauce'. In short, a dip is always welcome!

Adam Gray's recipe for fresh flatbreads with three dips will add colour and variety to your spread - he serves a basil and parsley pesto, prawn and grapefruit cocktail and roasted cherry tomato trio. 

This Greek fava dip from Alfred Prasad is made from slow cooked yellow lentils that are blitzed to a rich paste with carrots, capers and parsley. 

Serve this with pitta breads, warmed through lightly on the barbecue then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil to serve. All that's left to do is scoop.

Most people love a guacamole, so it's a solid choice if you're unsure of your guests' preferences. The key to a really good guacamole is plenty of salt and acidity, so don't be shy with the seasoning. 

This recipe from Matthew Tomkinson includes tomato, coriander and red onion too, for an explosion of flavours that will keep you reaching for another tortilla chip. 

American Classics

The canon of American barbecue sides tends to work well with a range of popular barbecue dishes - think mac n cheese with slow cooked meats and Boston baked beans with ribs. 

Anna Hansen's classic cornbread recipe is versatile and a great addition to most barbecues. Try serving with grilled chorizo sausages and a smoky pepper salad dressed with sherry vinegar, to steer things in a more Spanish direction. 

Marcello Tully's mac 'n' cheese leans towards the classic style, with plenty of mature Cheddar and Parmesan combining to make a rich, creamy sauce. The sliced tomatoes on top nudge it further towards summer. 

This will go with pretty much any barbecued meats or vegetables, and is a great way to add something filling to the table if you're inviting a lot of guests. 

Grilled corn is one of summer's finest treats. Whether you soak the whole husk before grilling and peeling, or simply chuck the cobs straight onto the grill, they're always guaranteed to go down a storm. Try using different compound butters to top the hot corn - herbs, spices and hard cheeses work well - and don't forget to season generously. 

Michael Bremner's grilled corn with chilli oil infused butter, lime and coriander is pretty irresistible! 

Salads

If there were a competition for the best green salad, the Caesar would surely be a front runner; crisp Romaine lettuce is tossed with a creamy, salty dressing and topped with Parmesan. 

There are many variations on this classic salad, but Anna Tobias believes that simple is best. This salad makes a perfect side for grilled chicken, such as this spatchcock chicken from Josh Eggleton, or try it with rich, oily fish, such as sardines or mackerel. 

Rice salads make a stunning barbecue side dish (as do those made with grains and beans) and this beautiful recipe from Joey O'Hare combines cherries and sumac for a salad that pops with bursts of sweet and sour flavour. 

Try it with grilled halloumi, baba ganoush and perhaps some grilled lamb chops for a Middle Eastern inspired barbecue feast. 

Mangoes are in season throughout the warmer months, so why not try making this Indian mango salad from Alfred Prasad. Sweet, fragrant mango is combined with a honey-lime dressing and topped with toasted coconut. Make sure to serve this one at room temperature, to get the most flavour from that fragrant fruit.